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  • Todd's 1960 Tbird Convertible

    I am starting a new thread to chronicle my 1960 Thunderbird convertible journey. It all started almost 5 years ago with what, in hindsight, might be best described as a mid-life crisis. I was creeping up on turning 50 and in search of a new hobby…a new project. We had moved back to Omaha after 3 years in the Chicago suburbs and bought a house with my dream garage…3 stalls wide with a tandem 3rd stall and I had an infrared tube heater installed for the cold Nebraska winters.

    I have always been somewhat handy and enjoy building or fixing stuff. Original plans for the garage called for a woodworking shop so I built a long work table and miter saw station with drawers like Norm Abram’s on The New Yankee Workshop. I stumbled into a vintage 1950’s DeWalt radial arm saw that needed some TLC and began shopping for some other tools to fill up the shop.

    Somewhere along the way, our oldest kid was getting closer to 16 so we bought a 2004 Honda Accord that was a great first car for him, but it needed some good cleaning and a little bit of maintenance. I did that with reasonable success and turned my attention to some things that had been bothering me on my 2007 GMC Sierra 2500HD. Suddenly, at 48 years old, I had awakened an interest in restoring a classic car. However, I really didn’t know much anything about cars and prior to the Honda, the last time I had done any more than changed wiper blades or air filters myself was an oil change on a family car when I was going to college…circa 1987! But I had an empty shop that needed to be used.

    But being the eternal optimist that I am, what could possibly go wrong?

    I am starting this thread now as I am about to take a big step in the restoration process. The first several posts will be a little bit of the story of how I came to own this car, then I will move into the restoration.

    Todd Gilroy
    1960 Tbird Convertible
    Thunderbird Registry #54651

  • #2
    What could possibly go wrong?

    I began my search by looking for good candidate car relatively close to Omaha. My first choice was a 1960 or 1961 Ford Starliner. Why? That was my father’s first car and I just think they are really cool. At that time, it seemed all the Starliners on the market were either fully restored and about $50K+, or so far gone that I knew they were WAY beyond my limited capabilities.

    Next choice was …an old Thunderbird. Why? My dad always talked about Thunderbirds. A T-Bird was always his dream car. He finally got one of the 1980-82 models but barely got to enjoy it before having complete kidney failure at age 40 and losing his eyesight related to being a long-term Type-1 diabetic. He eventually passed at age 45 due to complications related to the kidney failure.

    I think my wife (Denise) thought this was just a passing fancy…I told her about wanting to restore an old car and her only reply (at that time) was, “As long as it’s a convertible.”

    Then I found the “perfect” candidate…a 1960 Thunderbird convertible listed on Craigslist and Ebay, located in Carroll, Iowa…only 110 miles from home. The listing said, “Everything works but the clock!”

    I showed the listing to Denise and she seemed skeptical…but all she said was, “Why not a Mustang?” Ever since we started dating we talked about wanting to have her dad restore a Mustang for us. Her dad’s a car guy from the 50’s & 60’s. He used to own a body shop, a stock car pit crew engine guy, part-time diesel mechanic, fireman/paramedic, fuel truck driver, etc. But by this time, due to health issues with my mother-in-law, taking on a restoration project was out of the question.

    I explained that I really liked Mustangs, but “everybody does a Mustang” and besides, my dad’s dream car was always a Thunderbird, so there was a sentimental, emotional element to this decision.

    What could possibly go wrong?
    Todd Gilroy
    1960 Tbird Convertible
    Thunderbird Registry #54651

    Comment


    • #3
      So I went to work doing a little research on Thunderbirds. Availability of replacement parts, original specs, values, etc. I found squarebirds.org and several of the Tbird vendors.
      I requested a bunch of additional information and photos from the seller, including pictures of the underside. But I didn’t have time to go check it out in person (not that I would really know what to look for at that time, anyway). Ideally, I would have taken my father-in-law with me to check it out, but work demands didn’t allow for a day of vacation and the auction clock was ticking.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      Todd Gilroy
      1960 Tbird Convertible
      Thunderbird Registry #54651

      Comment


      • #4
        Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I won the auction!

        With about 1 hour left in the Ebay auction on an otherwise uneventful day in August 2014, I emerged from the office to inform Denise that it looked like I might be the proud owner of that 1960 Tbird convertible. She seemed startled and said, “"Shouldn'’t we have talked about this?”

        I was quick to reply, “We did. You said ‘as long as it’s a convertible’ and ‘why not a Mustang’. It is a convertible and I explained why I didn'’t want a Mustang.”

        About a week later she was driving me to Carroll, Iowa to pick up the car. The plan was I was going to drive it home. After all, everything worked but the clock, right?

        So on August 29, 2014, I drove it home and started the journey.
        Last edited by toddgilroy; January 5th, 2019, 08:50 PM.
        Todd Gilroy
        1960 Tbird Convertible
        Thunderbird Registry #54651

        Comment


        • #5
          Looks like a real solid car to start out with. Any time you can drive it home you are ahead of the game.

          John
          John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

          Thunderbird Registry #36223
          jopizz@squarebirds.org 856-779-9695

          https://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

          Comment


          • #6
            It started out as a project to replace the carpet, seat covers, convertible top and other cosmetic changes, along with new tires and shocks, touching up some paint, etc. My father-in-law was anxious to help me tune up the engine and figure out some electrical issues, including the clock and a finicky top. Well, I don't remember which forum member it is/was, but I remember someone saying, "The more I do, the more I see I need to do." The more I dug into it, the more issues I discovered, including some shoddy body work and some frame corrosion that really needed to be fixed.

            So After 4 1/2 years of periods of intense work on it broken up by some long breaks and a big job change, I hope the completely stripped and dustless blasted body and all painted parts will be at the body shop by the end of this month. The owner is planning on starting to pick up smaller parts this week until he has a space open in his shop in a couple weeks. My plan is to have them finish the metal work that I couldn't seem to make progress on, paint it and then deliver it back to me for reassembly.

            The shop is Extreme Paint & Hot Rods in Fremont, NE. Not too far from where I live in Omaha and happens to be where my in-laws live. They come highly recommended by a longtime family friend who had a lot of work done to completely restore a Mustang convertible. https://www.facebook.com/patsextremepaint

            Still a lot to do here on parts, but I figure they will have it for a while. Can't wait to see progress!

            Todd Gilroy
            1960 Tbird Convertible
            Thunderbird Registry #54651

            Comment


            • #7
              Kudos to you, Todd. You have a lot going for you right from the start. We all begin knowing nothing about restoration but quickly we surprise ourselves by trying and doing tasks we never dreamed of in the past, especially when we learn how much a mechanic charges per hour. I always encourage our members to do as much work on their rides as they possibly can. You will know exactly what has been done, you will not rush or cut corners and although jobs may take you longer to complete, a part of you will be in the car. As a result, your work will probably be better and more thorough. Take lots of pictures with each project.

              The size of your new garage is great. You will need a workbench that you can pound on with many 20-amp electrical outlets available with GFCI protection. My workbench has a steel angle iron front edge, about 4' long. In the corner is a good size vise with NO overhang (I don't want springback 'bounce'). Directly under the vise is a steel leg that goes to the floor. It's really a steel pipe so it can take hammering without flexing. Woodworking and steel fabrication need vastly different equipment. Consider adding a bench grinder, small drill press, and a couple $10 Harbor Freight 4.5" angle grinders. I keep a cutoff wheel in one and a flap wheel in the other. Most of my power tools are electric but I have a small compressor for my bench (and for filling tires).

              I LOVE drywall construction because it is fireproof and inexpensive. I'm excited to hear about your projects as you tackle them. As you do more, you learn more and your tools will reflect your capabilities. If you have a local high school with adult education classes, that is a perfect, inexpensive way to learn welding or sheet metal skills. Those classes are usually run by retired tradesmen who love their work. - Dave
              My latest project:
              CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

              "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
              --Lee Iacocca

              From: Royal Oak, Michigan

              Comment


              • #8
                Things are starting to move along at a pretty good pace now that the shop survived the Nebraska flooding and finished up a few projects. Having my 60 convertible dustless blasted revealed A LOT of rust issues and some really shoddy body work. Along with my car, I also delivered to the body shop what was essentially the back half of a Tbird and a door from a donor car from California that I had shipped here a couple years ago. Ended up getting shipped in three pieces, but still probably better than patching what I had or fabricating new panels, and I want fender skirts so the original quarters were important.

                Pat Buse and his guys are starting to make some progress and we are still shooting for mid- to late-summer to have the car back to me painted and ready for reassembly. In the meantime, I have been getting parts powder coated and re-chromed, along with trying to finish up all the items I am doing myself.

                Todd Gilroy
                1960 Tbird Convertible
                Thunderbird Registry #54651

                Comment


                • #9
                  Another load home from the powder coater...I had already stripped and painted some of these items, but I have decided that since I will be driving the car I am going to have a lot of items powder coated rather than painted. I think the price is pretty reasonable, especially considering I work quite a few hours and spend a lot of weekends following our volleyball playing daughter around, so time is limited. They blasted and powder coated this load for $165. I just wish I could get that bumper re-chromed for $165!

                  Todd Gilroy
                  1960 Tbird Convertible
                  Thunderbird Registry #54651

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Just got a picture from the shop today that metal work is all done and it's now on to body and paint work. Looks like the shop's original estimate of mid-to-late summer is going to be pretty close. Love seeing the shop make progress and I am looking forward to putting it all back together this coming fall, winter, spring...
                    Todd Gilroy
                    1960 Tbird Convertible
                    Thunderbird Registry #54651

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I went to South Africa for a couple of weeks and came back to more progress on the T-bird. We're into primer now and picked up another load from the chrome shop .
                      Attached Files
                      Todd Gilroy
                      1960 Tbird Convertible
                      Thunderbird Registry #54651

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        And soon the FUN will begin (reassembly) Looks good in primer. Your 1/4 window frames look like they are in great shape. Many of the tracks where the rollers ride are opened up from use. Are you reusing the old glass or buying new? I had problems with the vent glass where it was cut wrong. The corners were so rounded, there were gaps when it was installed. I had to have glass cut to match the original. Just one of many things to check.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks, Nyles. I am looking forward to spending many hours out in the garage putting things back together this fall, winter and beyond.

                          I did some work on the tracks before I sent the 1/4 frames to the chrome shop. I used a strong bench vise and over several days gradually put pressure on the tracks to push them back together. I will be using new glass as most of my flat glass is either delaminating badly or doesn't match up as far as tint/coloration. I am thinking about using Sanders Reproduction Glass and I think I can ship them the original vent and quarter windows to ensure a proper fit.

                          One thing I can't seem to decide on is whether to use clear glass or the light green tint. Sanders has a green tint windshield with the blue shade strip across the top. Since the car is a convertible and will be painted Acapulco Blue, I am thinking that will look pretty sharp.
                          Todd Gilroy
                          1960 Tbird Convertible
                          Thunderbird Registry #54651

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I used the tinted glass all the way around with the shaded windshield. It took me for ever to get the shaded windshield, as they were out of stock for about a year. I think I recall reading somewhere, that the hardtops were available with the tinted glass with AC and the convertibles were not as a factory option. I could be wrong on this but someone will probably chime in on this. Just mentioning this if you are shooting for a factory correct resto.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Almost ready for color! Got a text from the shop this morning they’re almost ready to shoot the truck bed liner on the underside and start painting.
                              Todd Gilroy
                              1960 Tbird Convertible
                              Thunderbird Registry #54651

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